May 11, 2021

This Week's NBA Power Rankings

Every week, Lines will bring you a fresh batch of NBA power rankings. Which teams are on the rise? Which teams are slipping? Find out now. 

Power Rankings as of May 10.

1. Utah Jazz (50-18)

Previous Rank: 2

It’s been smooth sailing for the Jazz even as Donovan Mitchell remains sidelined as he recovers from a sprained ankle.

Winners of five games in a row, the Jazz have leaned on their egalitarian attack to crush teams, except on Friday when Bojan Bogdanovic erupted for 48 points.

The Rockets' next game was a much more balanced effort, as Utah saw six players score in double digits. A deep sleeper to look at for the Jazz is ninth man Georges Niang, who has played solid all season and could warrant some playoff minutes to fill out the wing rotation.

Niang is an ace shooter (42% from three) with a 6-foot-9 wingspan. There’s not really too much else he needs to do for the Jazz other than stay grounded on defense.

2. Phoenix Suns (48-20)

Previous Rank: 1

The Suns are about to snap a decade-long playoff drought and currently have the league’s second-best record. That being said, they have to be panicking a little internally after losing to the Lakers on Sunday without LeBron James.

Why is this such a bad loss? Because as of now, the Lakers are set to face off against Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs if they survive the play-in tournament. And what a thankless situation that would be. “Hey Phoenix, congrats on your incredible year, go play the defending champion Lakers in the first round.”

Life sure is unfair, but don’t count the Suns out in any matchup. They’ve proven they can beat anybody this season.

3. Los Angeles Clippers (45-23)

Previous Rank: 3

Sunday's loss to the New York Knicks was... not great, Bob.

As one of the top contenders entering the postseason, LA has lost a plethora of close games this season. They had difficulty corralling Derrick Rose and were inefficient on offense. They need to be mindful of not letting possessions devolve into Paul George and Kawhi Leonard isolations. And while coach Tyronn Lue has done a better job of instilling a flowing offense, the Clippers must stick to it.

Leonard, despite scoring 29 points, is still clearly not back to 100%. Also, ace big man Serge Ibaka is still sidelined, which is a big deal because he’s LA’s only center who can protect the rim and drain from deep.

4. Philadelphia 76ers (47-21)

Previous Rank: 4

The 76ers are cruising, having won eight games in a row to further solidify their hold on first place in the East. That seeding is a big deal, especially since it means the 76ers would avoid both Milwaukee and Brooklyn in a potential second-round matchup.

Philadelphia is coming off a beatdown of the Detroit Pistons and witnessed the standard Joel Embiid dominance: 29 points and six rebounds in just 23 minutes.

Also, shoutout to Matisse Thybulle for swiping five steals in 19 minutes. The 76ers can defend their hearts out, but what will be a true determining factor in their success is if they can keep up with other scoring juggernauts.

5. Brooklyn Nets (44-24)

Previous Rank: 5

The Nets orchestrated an impressive 21-point comeback Saturday against the Nuggets, thanks to some excellent performances from Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Blake Griffin.

Griffin may not be the same explosive leaper he once was, but he still knows how to put the ball in the basket. He poured in 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, while Durant and Irving dropped 33 and 31, respectively.

So much of Brooklyn’s fate relies on if James Harden can return to his old form from this nagging hamstring injury that will have ended up costing the Beard over a month. The Nets are obviously a different and more lethal team with Harden, and they’ll probably need him to win a ring.

6. Milwaukee Bucks (43-24)

Previous Rank: 6

It’s been a very promising last few weeks for the Bucks, who flexed their muscles in two hard-fought victories over the Nets before taking care of business against the Wizards and Rockets this week.

Milwaukee’s Big 3 has been elite, especially Jrue Holiday who has played out of his mind recently on both ends of the floor.

One reserve to keep an eye on: Bryn Forbes, who has one of the quickest releases in the league. He’s drained over 50% of his three-pointers over his last 10 games, and if he can hold up on defense, could be the fifth cog in potential ending lineups.

7. Denver Nuggets (44-24)

Previous Rank: 7

The fact that the Nuggets have been this good recently despite not having Jamal Murray, Will Barton and Monte Morris in the rotation is quite remarkable. 

Saturday's collapse against the Nets was certainly not ideal, but what matters most is the Nuggets enter the playoffs as healthy as they can be (sans Murray).

Teams do not have an answer for Jokic, and Porter Jr. can shoot over virtually anyone. If the supporting cast can bring it, Denver can still be a threat in the West.

8. Los Angeles Lakers (38-30)

Previous Rank: 8

The good news? The Lakers are coming off a very impressive victory against the Suns and Anthony Davis submitted one of his best performances of the year, going off for 42 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocks.

Now for the bad news: LeBron James is still out with an ankle sprain and there’s no telling how he’ll look when he returns. Los Angeles has lost seven of its last 10 games and is set to play the Warriors in the play-in tournament. That’s one stellar Stephen Curry performance away from facing a must-win game.

These next two weeks will be crucial for the Lakers to get their roster healthy.

9. Dallas Mavericks (40-28)

Previous Rank: 9

Did you know the Dallas Mavericks are a top-six unit in offensive and defensive efficiency over the last 10 games?

Sure, there’s the issue of Luka Doncic’s technical foul count, but this squad has finally rediscovered last season’s magic. A lot of it obviously relies on Doncic to carry the burden, but the role players have stepped up. Exhibit A: Tim Hardaway Jr., who’s averaged just over 20 points per game over his past 10 games.

Hardaway Jr. has been lights out from deep, and the Mavericks are operating as both the best defensive and offensive unit in the league when he’s on the floor in the last 10 contests.

10. New York Knicks (38-30)

Previous Rank: 10

New York has been impressive all season, but they’ve often carried a label as overachievers. After a statement victory against the LA Clippers, they deserve some more respect.

While the Knicks need a strong playoff showing to fully shed that label, they were tough, disciplined and balanced Sunday. Derrick Rose continued his late push for Sixth Man of the Year, scoring 25 points, grabbing six boards and dishing eight assists.  

11. Miami Heat (37-31)

Previous Rank: 11

In a vital game for playoff seeding, Miami took care of business big time against the Celtics on Sunday. The Heat are now two games up on Boston and have the opportunity to shoot all the way up to the Eastern Conference's No. 4 seed if things break right.

12. Portland Trail Blazers (39-29)

Previous Rank: 12

Forgive the Portland skepticism, but this feels all too familiar.

Amid reports coach Terry Stotts is a goner after the season, the Blazers just haven’t looked like they’ll be able to beat the Clippers, Suns and Jazz in the Western Conference.

Their starting lineup has been phenomenal, sure, but the bench is thin and light on defense. Unless Norman Powell and Jusuf Nurkic play out of their minds, it’s going to be the same issue of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum not having enough help.

Maybe Carmelo Anthony turns in several vintage performances and the supporting cast all play up a level. Maybe things break right for once, and all the Blazers can do in the meantime is keep winning games and building chemistry.

13. Atlanta Hawks (37-31)

Previous Rank: 15

Atlanta has had a long three-game hiatus as they’re set to welcome back De’Andre Hunter soon, which will be a huge boost to their overall efforts.

Before dealing with persistent knee injuries, Hunter was making his case as one of the league’s most improved players following his rookie season. His long wingspan and active hands make him an excellent defender, while his three-point shot remains steady if not spectacular.

If Hunter returns to close to peak form, the Hawks will be a very difficult out.

14. Golden State Warriors (35-33)

Previous Rank: 16

What Stephen Curry did to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday should be illegal. The last standing Splash Brother played out of his mind, knocking down 11 three-pointers en route to 49 points in just 29 minutes.

Golden State is hanging onto the No. 8 seed, which is a big deal because it means they only have to win one of two potential play-in games.

And as the Warriors’ supporting cast has been decimated by injuries, those left standing are starting to step up. We covered Jordan Poole last week, and now it’s time for Juan Toscano-Anderson to receive some shine. The 28-year-old is letting Draymond Green’s playmaking prowess rub off on him, as he’s averaged six rebounds and 4.3 assists over his last 10 games. 

15. Memphis Grizzlies (34-33)

Previous Rank: 14

The Grizzlies are neck and neck with the Warriors for the West’s eighth seed, which has major play-in game ramifications.

Thankfully for Memphis, Jaren Jackson Jr. is back in the starting lineup. While he still needs to cut down on his fouls, his presence drastically raises the Grizzlies’ ceiling.

Meanwhile, Jonas Valanciunas continues to destroy everyone in his path and remains one of the league’s most underrated players.

16. Charlotte Hornets (33-35)

Previous Rank: 17

The Hornets deserve a heaping pile of credit for staying above water after being slaughtered with injuries to their top players.  

We’d be remiss not to praise Terry Rozier once again. After signing a three-year, $58 million contract with the Hornets in 2019, Rozier endured lots of backlash about the deal and his corresponding performance. But he’s played up to his deal this season, constantly balling out in clutch time. 

17. Boston Celtics (35-33)

Previous Rank: 13

It’s going to be very interesting to see which Celtics team shows up in the play-in game or playoffs. They’ve been up and down all season, constantly toggling between a team putting everything together and one that has no identity.

With a fully healthy lineup, Boston has the makeup of a serious problem in the East with troves of skilled wing players, but the pieces have never quite added up perfectly. Unfortunately, the Celtics won't be healthy for the postseason as rising star Jaylen Brown is out for the year with a wrist injury. 

18. San Antonio Spurs (32-35)

Previous Rank: 18

San Antonio is ending this season on a whimper.

The Spurs barely beat the depleted Kings on Friday and got handled by the Blazers the following night. Over the past 10 games, the Spurs rank 19th in offensive efficiency and 23rd in defensive efficiency.

What’s a shame is their preferred starting lineup has crushed opponents, but poor Derrick White cannot stay healthy. At this point, it’s nice to look at some positive developmental developments, and Lonnie Walker IV has continued to show spurts of elite scoring potential, but his overall numbers are still a tad disappointing.

19. Washington Wizards (32-36)

Previous Rank: 20

What Russell Westbrook has been accomplishing recently is otherworldly.

Westbrook has clinched the remarkable stat of averaging a triple-double in four of his last five seasons. He’s fresh off a masterpiece against the Pacers, with 33 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists. He drained two clutch free throws to take the lead, then cleanly blocked Caris LeVert’s three-point attempt. Oh, and Bradley Beal scored 50 points as well.

Anything can happen in the play-in tournament, and the Wizards are lucky to have these two stars guiding them. 

20. Indiana Pacers (31-36)

Previous Rank: 19

This Pacers season has been far worse than we all thought once reports started emerging that coach Nate Bjorkgren has been woefully incapable of gaining the respect of his locker room. From embarrassing his assistants to lashing out at his players over small mistakes, Bjorkgren may be in over his head. Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. Warren are all disgruntled with their first-year head coach.

21. New Orleans Pelicans (31-37)

Previous Rank: 22

The Pelicans still technically have a remote chance of slipping into the Western Conference play-in series, but they’ve been without Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram the past few games.

While the rotation has thinned, Lonzo Ball has really impressed as he auditions for some team to make him a lavish offer in restricted free agency this summer. Over his past 10 games, the oldest Ball brother has averaged 17.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 2.1 steals on 38% from deep on high volume.

Even though it looks like Ball will never be a team’s primary ball-handler, he’s shown how valuable he can be with the right fit.

22. Toronto Raptors (27-41)

Previous Rank: 21

The Raptors were barely holding on entering this week, but then they lost three games in a row, essentially ending their play-in bid.

Despite a brutal season, the Raptors can now can look forward to a top-10 pick and potentially bounce back next season. Toronto still boasted an impressive point differential with their best players on the floor, and they should be much better next campaign.

23. Chicago Bulls (29-39)

Previous Rank: 23

The Bulls have devolved into the league’s most dreaded state: stuck in the middle. They’re virtually guaranteed to miss the play-in, but don’t even have a draft pick to look forward to after trading it away to acquire Nikola Vucevic.  

24. Sacramento Kings (30-38)

Previous Rank: 24

Sacramento is fresh off a blowout victory over the Thunder on Sunday. Despite missing arguably their three best players in De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton and Harrison Barnes, the Kings have won three of their last four games behind a balanced attack.

An unheralded player who deserves more praise for engineering this late-season surge is Delon Wright. After getting shipped to Sacramento at the trade deadline, Wright has been a steadying presence. He’s averaging 11.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists on 40% from deep over his past 10 games.

25. Minnesota Timberwolves (21-47)

Previous Rank: 26

Some genuinely positive news is the Wolves have looked like a respectable, and at times, scary bunch over the past few weeks. The issue is this late-season push has greatly jeopardized their odds at a top-three pick, and we all know if they fall out of the top three, then they forfeit their pick to the Warriors.

But let’s focus on what’s happening on the court, which is very exciting for a forlorn Wolves fanbase. The quartet of Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, D’Angelo Russell and Ricky Rubio has been one of the most explosive offensive units in the league. The downside? They give up almost as many points as they score. 

26. Cleveland Cavaliers (21-47)

Previous Rank: 25

At this point in the season, it’s clear as day the Cavaliers are actively trying to lose in order to improve their lottery odds. With those losses have come very few spurts of exciting developments among their young core.

That being said, Cavs fans were treated to an Isaac Okoro outburst Tuesday against the Suns. Okoro dropped a whopping 32 points and six assists on incredible efficiency, the kind of game that teases at something greater than a good 3-and-D wing.

27. Orlando Magic (21-47)

Previous Rank: 27

Kudos to the Magic for finally leaning into the tank. They’ll likely be rewarded with a juicy lottery pick for their efforts.

But as the losses pile up, R.J. Hampton has shown serious signs of something potentially special. The athletic rookie guard, who was acquired in the Aaron Gordon trade, is averaging 12 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists over his past 10 games, but it’s been the bursts of speed to the rim and decisive playmaking flashes that portend a bright future for the young guard. 

28. Oklahoma City Thunder (21-48)

Previous Rank: 28

It's true: the Thunder are still alive, they’re just tanking.

How bad have the Thunder been tanking, you ask? Well, they’ve statistically been the worst offense in the league and a bottom-five defense, which is an impressively rare form of ineptitude.

As bleak as things look right now for the Thunder, keen fans should keep in mind that they’re one high draft pick away from trotting out a very exciting team next season. Pair Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Co. with either Jalen Green, Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley or Jalen Suggs... and let the fun begin.

29. Detroit Pistons (20-49)

Previous Rank: 29

If Killian Hayes pans out, Detroit could be looking at one of the best NBA draft hauls in a long time.

Hayes is coming off a 21-point, seven-rebound and eight-assist performance against the Bulls, showing savvy playmaking verve and a more confident shooting release. Then there’s Isaiah Stewart, the big man with an endless motor who has showcased lots of enticing skills.

In addition, Saddiq Bey has been lights out from deep all season, breaking the rookie record for most games with at least five three-pointers made (Bey has done this 12 times this season).

And lastly, don’t forget Saben Lee, who looks like a quality backup point guard.

30. Houston Rockets (16-52)

Previous Rank: 30

The Rockets have basically locked up the worst record in the league, which is great news because if they land out of the top four picks in the lottery, they have to give their pick to Oklahoma City as part of the Chris Paul-Russell Westbrook trade.

As the losses have piled up, star players such as John Wall have been sidelined in favor of giving some unheralded youngsters some burn. And while some stats are inflated as a byproduct of coach Stephen Silas’ tight rotation, there have been some impressive standouts. Kenyon Martin Jr., a late-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, dropped 27 points and 10 rebounds Saturday against Utah. He’s looked very capable as an athletic scorer.

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